There are a couple of post-war radio series that can be said to have shaped comedy and this is certainly one of them. Written by Denis Norden and the late Frank Muir, this show first aired in 1948 and ran for 13 seasons. It was different in its outlook to shows like ITMA and was completely post war in its attitudes, acknowledging more than a passing nod that the audience was both intelligent and with some level of literacy. The style of the show was more akin to that of revue, and showed influences of the American style of radio comedy.
It is probably wiser to start with a show before TIFH, Navy Mixture, which ran for 25 editions from the 5th July, 1947. This show was one in the variety vein, with comedy, music and novelty, all introduced by the young Australian radio prodigy, Joy Nicholls. Featuring 'Professor' Jimmy Edwards (an odd association considering that Edwards, complete with handle-bar moustache, spent the war serving in the RAF), Vic Oliver, a regular on Hi Gang!, Leslie Welsh (a memory man) and The Song Pedlars. Edwards' regular spot, a sort of light hearted lecture, was written by Frank Muir, and a guest on one show, Dick Bentley (incidentally another Australian) performed material penned by Denis Norden. It was the producer Charles Maxwell who joined Muir and Norden, after the end of the series, to plan another vehicle for Nicholls, Bentley and Edwards, this was to be Take it From Here.
The first edition of Take It From Here hit the airwaves on the 23rd March 1948, Edwards 28th birthday, and went completely un-noticed, very much like the remainder of the series, despite its six month run. The second series (and the BBC must have thought it good enough to make a second series!) saw the upturn in fortunes. Wallas Eaton had now joined the cast and was providing a number of voices, and, probably most importantly, Tommy Handley died. Tommy Handley was undoubtedly the most popular comedian of the time (perhaps of the century) and had kept the poulation going through the war with ITMA, and with his passing there was a huge void, not least of all on the standard repeat slot for ITMA. TIFH took its place and started to win over an audience that formerly listened to ITMA, and achieve national popularity.
Like a lot of shows, TIFH was split generally into three sections, the opening patter, a sketch on a theme or a recent news item, and then a film parody, although there was crossover of topics, especially topical references throughout. Word play also featured very highly in Muir and Norden comedy, and this was probably most notable in the later series My Word where both explained the origins of word and phrases, and also Call My Bluff on TV. The cast were also the targets of the comedy with references to Bentley's age, and Edwards' size and nasal growth! Catchphrases had proved popular throughout the war, with ITMA virtually a long list of catchphrases, and TIFH was not going to buck the trend. The theme and credits were not sacred either and Muir and Norden saw to it that they were equally as comical as the show itself and twisted the normal announcements to suit their needs. One announcement that is not humourous but quirky is the name Herbert Mostyn. This name is the result of the middle names of each of Muir and Norden and was used when either or both actually contributed lines to the show.
In 1953, after the end of the 6th season, Joy Nicholls decided to return to her native Australia, and was replaced by Alma Cogan and June Whitfield. The first sang and took up small parts, whilst hte second, an unknown actress, performed alongside Bentley and Edwards. It is worth noting that Betty Marsden was also in the running for the job, and radio history might have taken a completley different shape if the two had swapped roles, June in Beyond Our Ken and Round the Horne and Betty in TIFH!
The 7th season was then billed as the 'completely new' TIFH, and started on the 12th November 1953, with a reassurance from Edwards that the show would be back to the tried and tested the next week. The 'old Wal' character, played by Wallas Eaton, was retired for a season and 'disgusted of Tunbridge Wells' appeared, and the most famous new part of the show was Muir and Nordens answer to the trend of nicey, nicey radio families such as the Huggetts and the Lyons family (Ben and Bebe), and was to enter radio history as The Glums. They were all that the clean living families were not. Mr Glum, the head of the family, was boozy and brash and played by Edwards, with his wife, played by alma Cogan, generally heard as a indestinguishable noise from 'upstairs'. The son, Ron, was played by Bentley and to say he was intellectually challenged would be an understatement. As the series progressed, so did his stupidity (a move that is also reflected in Hancock's Half Hour, where Bill Kerr, incidentally another Australian, also played a character that progressively got dimmer). To make the family complete was Eth, the love of Ron's life. This became one of the most popular sections of the show, and far from being ditched to return to the adopted format, it was incorporated and promoted, with a vast amount of correspondence received from courting couples drawing similarities from Ron and Eth's life. This can still be reflected in as much as BBC worldwide have issued one volume of TIFH on cassette and one entirely devoted to The Glums.
By the tenth season, the 250th show was reached and The Glums had become the main feature of the show, and subsequent series saw the reduction of the contribution of the Keynotes to just one musical item. The Glums remained the mainstay fo the show until the series finally ended and was only missed on the 10th anniversary of the series on the 26th March 1958, however, it seems as if almost to make up for this temporary loss, two complete shows were given over to the family. By the last show of the twelfth season, Eth and Ron got as close as they ever were to tying the knot and nearly made it to the alter, however, an uncovered manhole was their downfall. This series did mark the exit of Muir and Norden, and Eric Merriman and Barry Took, the team who had been writing Beyound Our Ken worked on the scripts, but as had been the case with BOK, they did not see eye to eye and each wrote their own sections, with Took and an uncreditied Marty Feldman covering The Glum family chronicles. The thirteenth season was the last however, and although The Glums did not stop here, TIFH did.
25 years after their first outing on radio, The Glums came to television, with Edwards the only original member of the cast. Ian Lavender, most famous for playing Private Pike in Dad's Army was Ron, and Patricia Blake played Eth. Michael Stainton played Ted the barman. They first appeared as a 10 minute sketch within Bruce Forsyth's Big Night, with a further series of 8 following a year later, giving in all 17 editions, covering 25 stories. All were written by Muir and Norden and produced by Simon Brett. The TV revivals were not as popular as the radio series, but did cause a new generation to experience The Glums and seek out recordings of the original radio broadcasts.
TAKE IT FROM HERE
25 Editions introduced by Joy Nicholls, and featuring 'Professor' Jimmy Edwards, Vic Oliver, Leslie Welsh, The Song Pedlars, and the BBC Revue Orchestra. Guests included Benny Lee, The Western Brothers, Ted Ray, Peter Brough and Archie Andrews, Jack Warner, Cardew Robinson, and Dick Bentley. The show was broadcast on the Light Programme between the 5th of July and the 22nd of December 1947, with the exception of programme 4 that went out on the Home Service. I believe that there is one edition of this show preserved in the BBC archives, although I haven't been able to confirm this.
Take it From Here
Paris Studio in Lower Regent Street. Began 8.00pm with Muir doing Warm Up, followed by Bentley who then introduced the others. By 8.30 the recording was over and all that was required was the engineers thumbs up. After the first 9 seasons, only two shows had been disturbed by techinical problems, a needle jam on the recording equipments, and Edwards tripping over cables!
The first series consisted of 29 editions and ran for over 6 months between the 23rd March and 5th October 1948 on the Light Programme generally at 8pm, although this varied as the run progressed with some editions as early as 7.30 and as late as 10.15pm. Starring Professor Jimmy Edwards, Dick Bentley, and Joy Nicholls, with Wilfred Babbage (replaced after the 5th show by Clarence Wright). Alan Dean announced, and music was supplied but the Keynotes and the BBC augmented orchestra, and production was by Cahrles Maxwell. Herbert Mostyn also helped out through the series!
This series was 50% longer than the first, totalling 37 editions, and saw the arrival of Wallas Eaton (replacing Clarence Wright). Again broadcast on the Light Programme, this series was generally broadcast that bit later at 9.oopm, but this was by no means fixed and fluctuated as before as the run progressed. This series also contained a show recorded at the Naval Barracks in Portsmouth on the 22nd March 1949 (Programme 23). Other than the slight changes, the cast and production crew were the same as the first season. It was during this season that Tommy Handely died and the vacancy on the Saturday lunchtime repeat slot was filled by TIFH.
Series three began on the 11th October 1949 running for 34 weeks until the 30th May 1950. The evening slot of 8-8.3pm was used on the Light Programme for the run. By now the cast and crew were well established.
Over a year later the series returned, and from the 24th October 1950 to the 20th May 1951, TIFH Series four was on the air. It was broadcast on a Tuesday evening from 9pm on the Light programme.
This series was to be the last with Joy Nichols, and lasted 26 weeks from the 5th January until the 29th June 1953. Each edition was broadcast on a Monday night at 9.30pm on the Light programme, and this series is notable in as much as show 24 came from HMS Indefatigable at Spithead. The BBC has a recording of this show in the main archives.
By this series, Joy Nichols had left and June Whitfield had joined. The other main change was with the scripts, and the Glum family appeared. The series was broadcast on Mondays evenings at 9.30pm on the Light Programme from 12th November 1953 to 6th May 1954, with an additional performance on Sunday 31st January 1954 as part of the Daily Mail National Radio Awards. Joint winners of the most entertaining programme were TIFH and The Archers.
This series started with the 200th show, with the cast the same as that for previous series. Broadcast on a Thursday evening at 9.30 on the Light Programme, this consisted of 26 editions between the 9th December 1954 and 2nd June 1955.
A further 26 editions broadcast on the Light Programme on a Tuesday evening from the 11th October 1955 until the 4th April 1956. The sereis had the same cast as the previous two.
By this series, Alma Cogan had moved on to other things, but the remainder of the cast was the same as before. The series, consisting of 20 shows, was broadcast on the Light Programme between 2nd January and 15th May 1957 at 8pm on a Wednesday.
Series ten was a further 20 editions, and there would be no changes to the cast until the show finished. Broadcast between the 8th January and 21st May 1958 on Wednesday evenings at 9.30, on the Light Programme.
This series saw a drop in the number of editions, and the 16 produced were broadcast on the Light Programme of a Thursday evening at 9pm. The run started on the 27th November 1958 and finished on the 12th March 1959. This was the last series that was entirely scripted by Muir and Norden.
Eric Merriman and Barry Took shouldered the responsibility of producing the scripts for the last series. The cast remained the same, and the series ran for 20 editions between the 22nd November 1959 and 3rd March 1960. The show was broadcast on the Light Programme on Thursday evenings at 9pm.
TV Series One
Generally broadcast at 7.25pm on a Saturday evening on LWT, this series of 9 ten minutes slots were part of Bruce Forsyth's Big Night and ran from 7th October - 24th December 1978.
TV Series Two
Broadcast on a sunday evening at 7.15pm, these 8 thirty minute shows each contained two stories, generally as flashback stories told to Ted the Barman, and ran between 11th November - 30th December 1979, again on LWT.